The Biodiversity and Security (BIOSEC) research project and Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), in partnership with the University of Rwanda’s Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB), are pleased to host two-day workshop in Kigali, Rwanda, from 12-13 March 2020.
Title: Addressing Wildlife Crimes in Conflict Zones through Non-Violent & Community Conservation
Date: 12-13 March 2020
Location: University of Rwanda, Kigali
Communities at the interface of wildlife crimes and illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in Sub-Saharan Africa are complex and overly-homogenized actors. In some cases they are portrayed as desperate poverty-driven subsistence hunters on the wrong side of environmental laws that do not distinguish between traditional natural resource harvest and global wildlife exploitation by multinational criminal syndicates. In other cases, they are seen as pawns or at best, mid-level actors in international wildlife rackets, seeking a slice of the profits from a global economy that far exceeds monetary benefits from ecotourism revenue-sharing programs. In both of these scenarios, communities are classified victims of internationalized political economies. In another scenario, members of local communities are organized, armed, savvy, and asserting authority over natural resource chains in the territories they occupy in defiance of State authorities. Groups like this include the M23, ADF-NALU, Boko Haram and FDLR.
When armed groups threaten protected areas and endangered species with violent forms of natural resource exploitation, “crisis conservation” can be provoked, resulting in armed groups and armed conservation actors engaging in escalations of violence. Given the violent context within which park rangers in conflict settings are operating, this is often justified as a pragmatic response. When armed groups permeate a community and its territory, other members of the community can find themselves persecuted on various fronts (perceived as accomplices or hosts of armed actors) with little support to resist coercive co-option into violent schemes. Already marginalized peoples in particular (e.g., disenfranchised indigenous peoples) may find themselves lost in the cross-fire or they may resist through their own means (non-violent or violent).
Learning from Across the Continent
Our workshop will facilitate discussions around issues such as the significance of militarization of protected areas (i.e., ultimo ratio and “crisis conservation”); then seek analyses of alternative approaches that complement “crisis conservation” strategies. We will identify challenges towards implementing community-driven solutions and policy changes, including the deterioration or absence of community conservation. We will explore how these dynamics may be embedded within the broader context of corruption and political instability and the limitations of communities or conservation actors seeking to operate within such settings. The objective will be to draw out more nuanced solutions and policy recommendations.
Above all, the workshop seeks to provide a safe space for critical debates by African conservationists and community members or allies about the realities of local communities at the interface of wildlife conservation, wildlife crimes, and violent conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Workshop participants will be coming from Benin, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the UK, but many bring experiences on-the-ground from across the continent. They represent local communities, park managers, conservation NGOs, armed actors, academics, and governments. All are seeking to transform complex dynamics between communities, wildlife crimes, and conservation in conflict-affected environments and especially to highlight non-violent community approaches to addressing wildlife crimes in such contexts.